Urban Adaptation

Sustainable urban living, rural dreams, and daily change for a homemade life.

Archive for March 2011

Walking

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I’ve always liked walking, but haven’t always walked as much as I like.  It’s convenient, easy, provides some exercise, requires no special equipment beyond comfortable shoes, and is remarkably low energy.

Recently, The Boy and I have started walking together a few days a week.  We go out a few times a week, sometimes to run errands, but more often just to get out in the world now that the weather’s a bit more tolerable, the sidewalk a bit more walkable, and there’s the odd robin to see hopping around on the slightly thawed ground.

Honestly, it’s become one of my favourite things.  Don’t get me wrong, I like walking alone, and frequently head out on my own for errands, or even to campus.  But alone usually means something more along the lines of by myself and listening to music.  When The Boy and I are out, though, we talk.  Sometimes we tell stories, sometimes we discuss issues, sometimes we dream or plan what we want in the future.  Sometimes we’re serious, and sometimes we just laugh and laugh (we laugh a lot, the two of us).  But no matter which way we go – on the walk or in conversation – we just have a great time together, and I’m really appreciating the break in my days, and the chance to get out a little more.

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Written by Jenn

March 31, 2011 at 11:39 pm

Posted in Healthy living

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Opening a window?

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I teach sessionally, and this year, with budget cuts and collective agreements and various other things working against me, I’ve been offered only two courses.  I was hoping for three, if not four.  And for the courses I have, there’s no guarantee that they’ll run if they don’t meet enrollment requirements.

This is…well…upsetting.  Two courses works out to just over $11000 a year (before taxes, which takes it down to about $10000), which is not exactly a whole lot of money to live on.  I’m putting out feelers for as many other options as I can right now, although I may not know anything for a little while.  For now, I’m still making as much money as I can, and putting away as much of it as I can, but I’m a bit shaken still.

To be fair, I have savings.  The Boy has some extra money coming in.  We will not be destitute, not by a long shot.  But I don’t want to dig into savings, if I can help it.  It’s always been a point of pride for me to live below my means, and I intend to keep that up as best I can right now.  So I’m formulating a plan.

The first bit is employment related:

1.     Pull in every reasonable job I can for the foreseeable future.  Every little bit of work helps.

2.     Finish the dissertation.  This means I can finally stop paying tuition.  This was the plan for the summer anyway, but it feels like even more of a priority now.  Over $2000 a semester buys a heck of a lot of beans.

3.     Get published.  The more I can do to make myself marketable, the better chance I have of finding a good, more permanent job.

The next bit is simply tightening the budget.  While I haven’t exactly been lax recently, I could be better about cutting the fat a bit more.  Assuming that I’ll make $10000 next year, that’s about $830 a month to live on (not including groceries, which The Boy usually pays for).  $830 is tight but workable (okay, tight doesn’t really accurately describe it, but groceries would make things infinitely tighter), so that’s what I’m going to try for this next month.

I’m thinking I’ll blog this – keep track of what is spent and where, and also how I’m feeling about the whole shebang.

Logically, I know we’re okay.  I can look for other work.  The bills are low.  I have savings.  There’s a lot of food here.  I know how to eat cheaply.  I have all the shoes, clothes, and outerwear that I could need for a good long while.  The apartment is full of inexpensive entertainment – books, games, and music.  I’m creative and stubborn.  We’re just fine.

But still, it’s unsettling.

And so the final step is to try to see this in a more positive light (in the interest of full disclosure, this final step took me a few hours after drafting the rest of this to get to – this was most definitely not an immediate thought).  I’m looking for the window that opens when the proverbial door closes.

This is a kick in the pants to get the dissertation finished, and to seek out new work in new places with new people.  It’s a chance to slow down a bit.  It’s an opportunity (albeit somewhat forced) to step away from consumerism a bit more, and to figure out how to live pretty darn frugally.  Heck, if nothing else, it means a light teaching load for the next two semesters and a chance to exercise, read, sleep, publish, write, play music, see friends, and catch up on a whole pile of things that I’d like to do.

But for now, well…blah…

Written by Jenn

March 29, 2011 at 11:06 pm

Posted in Money matters, Working stiff

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And then there was rice…

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When I started on this path, as it were, I had pretty much one thing on my mind (or a few things, all linked together, sort of).  I wanted a farm.  I wanted chickens and ducks and sheep and a woodstove and fireplace and a big garden and a small office filled with books that I could write from and a couch on which I could doze off every now and again when the chores were done and I could grab a few minutes to myself.

But as I read yet more about the state of the world, things started to shift.  I wanted to be sure that I could take care of myself and the people I loved where I could if I had to.  I wanted to make the space I was in suit what we needed now instead of waiting for some future that might or might not come.

In part, these changes are rooted in fear.  I think it’s disingenuous to say otherwise.  I’m concerned about keeping warm and clean and fed.  I worry that someday there won’t be water in the pipes, food in the grocery store, heat in the apartment, or money in the bank.

But I also don’t want my life ruled by fear, and so I try to see the changes that I make as empowering, even if the actions I take and the things I do are rooted at least partially in being afraid.  I try to remember that given the situation I’m being as proactive as I can be right now, and that I’m still making choices to act in ways that I think are useful and that will be helpful in the future.

Today, I bought two 8 kilo bags of rice on sale.  I noticed the sale yesterday, but didn’t have enough hands (or strength) to carry them along with the other groceries.  So today, I went back for two bags.  It took about 45 minutes to do, since I needed to take the bus part way home (they were very difficult to carry while walking), and I feel better with them parked in the kitchen.

I can see the rice as being a product of fear, and be reminded of it every time I go into the kitchen, or cook, or (to be honest) every time I trip over it, which I will, given the present state of my kitchen.  Or I can see it as something that will help me, and as a way of pushing that fear a little deeper while also using it to make changes for the long run.  Some days it’s harder than others, but I’m really working on the latter.

Written by Jenn

March 28, 2011 at 11:26 pm

Words

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“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

Theodore Roosevelt

Written by Jenn

March 27, 2011 at 9:52 am

Posted in Words

Torn

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Every so often the Ontario Power Authority sends out coupon booklets for savings on things like CFLs, programmable thermostats, and energy star appliances.

And, every so often, the recycling bin beside the mail area for my building is filled with those same coupon booklets.

I don’t know if it’s that people don’t read them because they think they’re junk mail, are already completely stocked up on energy efficient lights, or simply just don’t care, but I’m always torn.  While I’m delighted that a bit of digging nets me a bunch of extra coupon books, it also means that other people aren’t taking advantage of them, which I’m just not sure bodes all that well.

Written by Jenn

March 26, 2011 at 7:27 pm

Posted in Sustainable living

The Anyway Project – March

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I’m not sure where March went, and it strikes me that I might not have updated for February, but here I am again with The Anyway Project, and reminding myself that slowly and surely isn’t a bad way to work towards something at all.

Domestic Infrastructure: I’ve added more things to the goodwill pile, to make room for the things that I feel are more important to have for living a more sustainable life, and I’m slowly but surely getting the piles out of here bit by bit.  I’ve rearranged some furniture, and gotten rid of chair that was un-sittable it was so uncomfortable, and made a bit more room in the main living area.

We’ve simplified the kitchen, which has been remarkably helpful.  I’ve gotten rid of a bunch of things that we don’t need, and we’ve put away some others, so we only have enough dishes for a few meals, which makes washing dishes easier and ensures that they don’t pile up as badly anymore.

Next month: Simplify the bedroom and bathroom by getting rid of extraneous clothes and other sundry things.  Get more of the donations out to Goodwill so they’re not taking up space here anymore.  Plan for a move – I have no idea if we will be moving, but acting like we will helps me to decide what to keep, makes me more ruthless, and helps me get into the mindset of moving if we do go through with it.

Household Economy: This month, I was a bit over where I wanted to be.  An extra shopping trip, a gift to my brother, and one larger-than-usual purchase (more on that later) put me a bit over where I wanted to be.  While I’m still living within my means, I’ve been trying to be extra-frugal, which didn’t happen as much as I wanted this month.

As a new computer is winging its way towards me (a replacement, effectively meaning that I just have to pay for the extended warranty and a cable to transfer files, meaning that I will have a new computer far less than I thought), I’ve been considering ways that I can set up and use my computer to bring in a bit more money.  I’m considering summer freelance work, and some more of my own writing, and hopefully finding some ways to make a bit of extra income on the side.

Next month: Cut the budget again (more on this later, but I’m looking to cut down on extraneous spending even further).  Set up the new computer for maximum functionality, and look into open-source or inexpensive programs that will help with either the academic work, some extra freelance or creative work, or come of both.

Also, I need to keep working on academic work.  Finishing the dissertation means I can stop paying tuition, which would be a very good thing.  I’m hoping it will also make it easier to find a job, which would also be a very good thing.  So that’s a priority, as is doing a few other things that will help my academic standing.

Resource Consumption: Happily, with a few more low-watt CFLs and more awareness of the fridge door, we’ve cut down our energy usage by a bit (although we’re still on the warpath, and I think another power bar that can be turned off might be in order).

We’ve been trying to buy foods in less packaging – more bulk, more produce – and I’ve been working on making a set of reusable produce bags.  I’ve also started saving up glass jars – salsa jars appear to be the perfect size for making yogurt in (one of my upcoming projects, I think), so they’re going to be reused.  I’ve also started on the “no ‘poo” hair thing again, so I’m buying less shampoo and conditioner, and using baking soda and apple cider vinegar instead.  They live in the shower in a reused chocolate syrup bottle and a reused soda bottle, respectively.

The purchase that I mentioned above falls in here too.  I bought a used bike trailer that attaches to my existing bike so I can haul things with out the bus, or renting a car.  For $75 it seemed like a reasonable way to try and see if this works for us before investing the big bucks.  If it works well, great.  If it doesn’t, at most I’m out the money, but could probably resell the trailer.  I’m hoping the trailer will fit into the Anyway Project in a few ways.  First, from a resource standpoint, I hope to need less oil and gas.  This should also help the household economy if I can spend less money on the bus (when my bus pass runs out), on car rentals (when I have things to move), or on purchases (if it’s easier to get to places with better quality items, or better prices).  I’m also hoping it will help my health if I wind up biking more.  I also think it will help with getting more local foods – getting to the farmer’s market will be easier, and so will the flour mill, which is bikeable but somewhat far from the bus routes.

Next month: Get used to using the trailer, probably to help remove some of the remaining piles of stuff from the apartment (which will happily also help to make room for the trailer, which is larger than I thought it would be).  Make some more reusable shopping bags.  Research for setting up a worm composter.

Cottage Industry and Subsistence: Still no real industry here, although I have started seeing what I can start / grow inside.  Radishes, peas, spinach, cucumber, dill, and basil have all been started inside.

While it’s still high tech, I’m considering (and pricing) ways that I can set up my computer to create a bit more of a business.  I’m a good writer and editor and, as I mentioned earlier, a bit of freelance work here and there wouldn’t be such a bad thing, and I’m also considering whether there’s anything I can contribute to the growing body of literature on living more sustainably, although that will likely just take on the guise of more blog posts.

Next month: I’d like to plant some more, and hopefully start setting up some containers for gardening outside.

Family and Community: I haven’t done great on community, although I’ve been to more local events on things like climate change and labour issues.

Next month:  More events, hopefully that I can bike to.

Outside Work: I still think the priority needs to be academic work, but as mentioned above, I’m considering some freelance or other work that can be done from home, possibly over the summer, and considering ways that I can maximize the sudden boon of a new computer to help with this.

Next month: Keep on keepin’ on, I guess.

Time and Happiness: I’ve made a lot more time for running and biking recently, which keeps me saner and calmer and healthier, all of which are good things.  The Boy and I have also been experimenting with new recipes together, which is lovely, and going for at least a few long walks a week, which I love.

Neck month: Yet more keep on keepin’ on.  More walks, more biking, more running.  Maybe some meditation.

 

Written by Jenn

March 26, 2011 at 4:10 pm

Prepping

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I’ve never really thought of myself as someone who’s a prepper.

Someone who’s interested in food security?  Yes.  Someone who wants to grow their own?  Certainly.  Someone who wants to be prepared for an uncertain future?  Absolutely.  But a prepper?  Not really.  I don’t have anything against it, it just never really crossed my mind.

Until this week, that is.

Now, although I’ve never thought of myself as a prepper, I’ve read about prepping, and thought about prepping, and wondered if, really, I should be doing something more along the lines of prepping and getting together some stockpiles and basic tools and things for which there might be a need somewhere down the line.

I was at the thrift store this week, and I stumbled across rather a lot of inexpensive hurricane candles (likely because they are in a shade called “lemon” which, yes, is a well and truly awful bright yellow).  They worked out to $1 for a box of six.  I bought seven bags with four boxes in each for a grand total of 168 candles for $28.  For another $5 each I also got two brass-with-glass-chimney hurricane lanterns.

They’re not the ideal solution for every issue (this is why I also have lanterns and lamp oil as well, although I should stock up on wicks, and I have my eye on a hand-cranked LED lantern), but I now know I have a supply of emergency candles with solid holders to use if something does happen and the power goes out.

I also picked up an extra pair of sturdy shoes (since apparently one of my great fears in life is not being able to find or replace solid, comfortable, fairly long-wearing footwear, which could at least partially explain my current five pairs of Doc Martens), two pizza pans, and a large binder in which to store my paper collection of things-that-I-might-need-to-know-and-have-on-hand.

Of course, now that I’ve started, I’m thinking about it more, and there’s a lot that I still want to do – so much so that thinking about it all makes me a bit nervous in terms of cost, time, and the idea of either storing stuff (which I’m working on), or finding a way to move it if I have to move at some point.  More on this later, though.  For now, things are a bit busy, so I won’t be getting to it all right away, but I’m considering ways in which I can relatively easily start to improve my current and future situation a bit more.  Of course, suggestions are always welcome as well.

Written by Jenn

March 25, 2011 at 4:18 am